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British Armed Forces & National Service

The Royal Air Force and National Service.


Recruiting of regulars and National Servicemen into the RAF in the early days of the Cold War was really massive. The Army recruited far more, of course, but recruits went to individual regiments for training while in the RAF training was centralised.

All recruits went first to one of two Reception Units (RU), No 1 RU at RAF Padgate (until 1953) or No 2 RU at RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire for initial medicals and kitting out. Several thousand a month were handled in a process that took up 3-5 days. Each day a batch of recruits was dispatched to a School of Recruit Training(S of RT). For short journeys, transport was by truck but for longer distances, special trains were chartered..

Essentially there were five S of RTs although some other RAF stations were also used for short periods:

Bridgnorth: No 7 S of RT, Shropshire; from November 1945 to February 1961 although it continued for regulars for another 2 years

Hednesford: No. 11 S of RT, Staffordshire; from October 1950 to December 1956; intake on Wednesdays; all potential National Service officers (POMs) and Jews went here.

Padgate: No 3 S of RT, near Warrington, from August 1945 to March 1957;

West Kirby: No. 5 S of RT, Wirral, from September 1946 to December 1957; intake on Mondays (to 1956) then Fridays;

Wilmslow: No 4 S of RT, Manchester, WAAFs also trained here; from November 1948 to November 1959;

Each S of RT was organised on similar lines with an intake of 100-120 men a week for 8-week periods of training. Each had 4 Wings comprising 2 Squadrons with 4 Flights in each Squadron. The men in a Flight would be housed in 5 or 6 huts, most with a corporal drill instructor in a separate room. A flight lieutenant, perhaps supported by a junior officer but always with a flight sergeant or sergeant, would command each Squadron. Basic training consisted of drill, weapons training and fitness training with occasional lectures on other topics. Sport was on Wednesday afternoons. Usually one week of the eight was given over to fatigues and guard duties. At any one time a typical S of RT would be training up to 3,500 men.

Anthony Upton writes in: "My Paybook was marked Hostilities Only, Called up June 1946, Basic training carried out at Compton Bassett, Wilts. Demob August 1948.Service No. 3084952."

Others had various experiences of staying at one RAF Station all their service, others moved frequently, but all shared a common bond which stays with them all their life.

The Royal Air Force

RAF Hednesford

RAF West Kirby

RAF YatesburyAssociationi/ incorporates RAF Compton Bassett, Cherhill & Townsend)

RAF Yatesbury Pictures

RAF Stations and Aerodromes

Royal Air Force History

The RAF Regiment

















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